THE BLACK SHEEP is an ongoing column featuring different takes on films that either the writer HATED, but that the majority of film fans LOVED, or that the writer LOVED, but that most others LOATH. We're hoping this column will promote constructive and geek fueled discussion. Dig in!
Dark Shadows (2012)
Directed by Tim Burton
“I was surprised, really. It’s Burton’s best movie since Sweeney Todd or Sleepy Hollow.”
Currently at a theater near you, Johnny Depp is back doing what he does best…playing a quirky character so odd, so damn weird that we the public we say, “Wow, that guy plays a lot of odd and weird characters.” I’ve been onboard with Depp since Scissorhands, but dude really needs to mix it up a little more. We all know he’s good at playing the weirdo but he gives us that weirdo all…the…time and, well, it doesn’t seem that weird anymore.
Now many are speculating that his latest, The Lone Ranger, will bomb. I kinda doubt it. The foreigners (the international box office that is) will make it money. Point is, last summer he had a bomb too with his eighth collaboration with Tim Burton. I, like 92% of the movie going public, skipped Dark Shadows but finally decided to kill a few hours and give it a go. I was surprised, really. It’s Burton’s best movie since Sweeney Todd or Sleepy Hollow. Obviously, this is no Ed Wood, but I dug Dark Shadows because it’s just a quirky movie.
Oh sure, Depp is plays another pasty squirrel, but tonally the film is all over the place, combining slapstick comedy, tragedy, horror, and gothic romance. Half the time I didn’t know what I was really watching, and I liked that for a change. The movie felt unpredictable. The movie felt big and epic. The movie felt silly and sweet. To me, that’s a winning formula. Granted, I don’t know a thing about the original show so I have no clue how faithful it is or how it bastardized it.
But then again that shouldn’t matter. A film should stand on its own two digital feet. And I think this one does as Depp stars as Barnabas Collins, a cursed man who loses the love of his life and becomes a vampire in 1700s only to be buried alive and rediscovered in 1972. Now I’m pretty sure that wasn’t the plot to the TV series, but I like it. It’s a unique take on the fish out of water story line, and it gives Depp a chance to be extra oddball because, you know, he isn’t from that time but even though it’s a cheap ploy, it works well.
Even though every single promotional pushes Dark Shadows as a Depp vehicle, it’s a team movie with a damn good cast. I love seeing Michelle Pfeiffer back on the screen, which I don’t think I have since What Lies Beneath (a decade ago!!). Obviously, I still love her from Catwoman and she still has the sex appeal past the age of 50. Helena Bonham Carter is as wonderfully strange as ever as the good doctor, and Eva Green is sexy shit as the witch with serious rejection issues. But real standout is Chloë Grace Moretz. Yeah, she’s plays your average bitchy teenager, but she got some undeniable charisma that really shows her (not like no one saw it before). Here’s hoping she doesn’t go all Lindsay Lohan in the next few years.
But in the end, this is Depp and Burton’s show. All the usual Burton gothic qualities are here, but toned downed just enough so they don’t become blatantly annoying. If anything, Dark Shadows reminds that when Depp and Burton get together they slap together something worth seeing. Personally, I’d like to see them make something for $50 million or less. If their best collaboration came from a movie with an $18 million budget, then that should tell them something. Burton is one of the directors who shouldn’t be allowed to create whatever the hell he wants because of the CGI. Give the dude limitations and his f*cked up, brilliant brain can deliver some awesome shit. With that said, with a budget of around $150 million I can see what he can without limitations. And it ain’t a bad thing.